Anything's Possible! – Website created by Michael Sloane, Alexia's big brother.

Alexia Sloane won The 2014 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation for the 14-and-under category with her translation from French of a poem by Jean Dominique. Here she talks about why she entered and how she chose the poem.

Update: Here are some pictures of Alexia at the awards ceremony.

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 Meditation

 By Alexia Sloane

 I may be asked how the idea of meditation is connected to that of identity.  Well, I have heard that some people believe that one can discover elements of one’s identity that perhaps, we may not have otherwise known through meditation.  I found this idea fascinating and therefore decided to explore it in this piece.

The phrases may seem disconnected and irrelevant to one another in places, which is meant to represent thoughts as they pass in and out of the mind.

The four lines spoken by the percussionist are ones that I wrote myself as a sort of conclusion to the piece: a reflection of the feelings the person meditating has experienced and, on the last chord and the a niente, all those doubts about who he is disappearing into the ether with the music as he discovers himself.

Since I composed this piece completely apart from any instrument and notation software, it was very much like a stream of consciousness, which I hope has helped me reflect its message.

I hope Doctor Sextet won’t be as horrified at the sight of this piece as my amanuensis was when I informed her that it used all six of its instruments and lasted the maximum time we were allowed to write for!

Note: Hopefully I will be able to add a sound file of the composition soon.

Judge’s comments:

”This piece stands out as the most earnest attempt in the competition  at something original. I am impressed by the variety of the ‘disconnected and irrelevant’ ideas, some of which have a very clear,  almost naive harmonic innocence, while others are complex and pit  extreme dissonances against one another. The musical continuity which is arrived at from bar 49 (with the rising piano chords) is a sudden blossoming from the earlier disparate continuity’. Ewan Campbell, Judge of the 2014 Cambridge Young Composer of the Year  Competition.

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Alexia has won a Poetry Prize with the Wildlife Trust Poetry competition with her poem Synaesthesia, which can be found a few posts below.

website: http://www.wildlifebcn.org/PoetryCompetition

 

Composer: Alexia Sloane, 14

 

Title of Mandarin Chinese Song: Mo Li Hua

 

Singer : Nicole Ming Hui Puah

 

Words and English translation :

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Rang wo lai Jiang ni zhai xia

Let me pluck you

 

Song gei ni ren jia

And give you to someone

 

Mo li hua yao mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Bu rang shui ba xin zhai xia

Not letting anyone to win my heart

 

Jiu deng na yi ge ren ai ya

Waiting to be loved by that one person

 

Mo li hua ya mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmine flower

 

Shui dang wo qing ren mo li hua

Who is to be my beloved, jasmin flower

 

Ni shuo wo zhen hao shen me dou hao

You say that everything about me is fine

 

Shui dang wo qing ren

Who is to be my beloved

 

Zuo meng dou hui xiao

Smiling in my dreams

 

Wo wang zhe chuang wai de jie jiao

I look to the street corner outside the window

 

Kan dao xin suan zou lai xing fu zou diao

And I see a heart of sorrows, happiness gone

 

Ni shuo wo zhen hao bi shui dou hao

You say I am so fine, finer than everybody

 

You shi he de ren

If there is someone suitable

 

Yao bang wo jie shao

That you will introduce to me

 

Ru guo wo zhen de na me hao

If I am really so fine

 

Ni wei shen me bu yao

Why don’t you want me?

 

Wei shen me bu yao

Why don’t you want me?

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Hao yi duo mei li di mo li hua

What a beautiful jasmin flower

 

Fen fang mei li man zhi ya

Sweet-smelling, beautiful and stems full of buds

 

You xiang you bai ren ren kua

Fragrant, white, praised by everybody

 

Mo li hua ya mo li hua

Jasmin flower o jasmine flower

Alexia Sloane

LET THE WORLD KNOW THE TRUTH

Darkness. Penetrated only by the faintest glimmer of a burning candle as it plaintively flickers, trying to help me.

Cold. Biting into my body, my heart, my soul. There is too much of it to shiver.

A faint smell of something- sadness, decay, loneliness- hangs in the air like cobwebs woven by the ghost of an ancient spider. How has its tapestry survived?

The taste of nothing presses on my tongue.

And the silence. Broken only by the lingering echo of what happened then…

Early evening. I can see people talking and laughing together; I can hear snippets of their conversation, although I am not eavesdropping. Life has taught me better by now:

“REALLY?”

“What happened?”

“Let’s go…”

But I am alone. There is no one to talk to me and I can talk to no one. I arrive at the church where we have arranged to meet and strive to open the door; it groans.

Inside, everything is huge but the pews: the altar with its statue of an angel; the stained glass window showing various biblical scenes; the organ; the distance between the stone floor and ceiling.

Neither of us is religious. Science, philosophy, logic… they are enough. So we are not here to pray. We have chosen to meet here because I do not want to be heard by anyone else, and I know that no one comes here at this time on a week day. Yet I sense a presence, although he is not yet here. Someone IS here, I know it. They do not want to be seen. Why?

I hear the door moan, then I see him approaching. He stops in front of me and smiles. For one precious moment, our eyes meet. He silently falls to the ground. A sound like a dog whining escapes my mouth. Is it a dog whining or is it a wolf howling? Or is it some alien sound that no animal on earth but me is capable of producing? My only friend. Who was so patient so thoughtful who understood me. NO ONE has ever understood me but him. He would listen to my sounds that were meaningless to the rest of the world; he would listen to them and know what I was saying; would watch my expression and understand exactly what I was feeling. But now… What happened? Why?

Then, I see him. Small, thin and peeling off thin rubber gloves. I must have been too intent on my friend to see him. No. Not “him”. IT. For It was the presence. Now, it has shouted. People are coming into the church, crowding around us, swarming like a wake of hungry vultures, staring wide-eyed at the three of us. It is only now that I realise: I have fallen to my knees. My hands are covered in blood and I am holding the knife.

“Go away!” I want to shout. “For Heaven’s sake, leave me alone! LEAVE ME ALONE! It was HIM!” But they will not understand. Now, my thoughts are completely cut off from civilisation.

“Uiu?” I am saying. I cannot even say his name!

The vultures’ screeches sound distant. I hear a requiem in my blurred mind, but in my despair I forget whose it is. It does not matter. I wish it would stop, but it refuses. It hacks into my very core, my essence, everything and I can think of nothing else…

After that, there is nothing but a flash of days, weeks, months… perhaps years or centuries. Time is irrelevant. Tick, tock tick…

The scream of the sirens, the vultures, the handcuffs; and all the while, Julius’ last word to me, before we separated that last time echoing: “Goodbye.”.

Nothing for sometime.

The trial- I remember very little of that. A cold room; colder eyes boring into me. Questions? Unjust assumptions. The discovery of my fingerprints on the knife- of course they were on it! The killer was wearing gloves so as not to be caught!

Nothing again.

Tomorrow.

Now, I am here. Alone again. Rest, understanding, warmth. None are present. Only misconceptions, lies and cold, cold hatred.

No.

It is hopeless.

Tomorrow, I will lie on the bed. The first stage: the final remnants of my expression paralysed and torn away by merciless hands. The second? My body destroyed. The third? My spirit joining him. (I believe in the human soul.) Is it universal? No. I do not believe that.

Do I care? About joining him, yes. About the rest…

I would not kill a friend.

If these pages are found, I beg you: publish them. Let the world know the truth for its own sake.

Tomorrow.

I have already planned my last “words”:

“I confess to a single and terrible crime: innocence.”

Tien Gang looked down at his hands. They were not a typical concert pianist’s hands at all.  They had short, stubby fingers, and were not even very flexible.  It was his feet that were beautiful.  His toes were very long, thin and supple. At school, he had always been nicknamed “Daddylongfeet”. Even now, some of his old friends still teased him by calling him that.

Today his hands were hurting and warm, the joints stiff and inflamed. He had been noticing a little stiffness for the last few days, but had put it down to not enough exercises at the piano. But that couldn’t explain inflamation, could it?

Alarmed, he went to his little music room crowded with scores, books, papers and tuning forks, sat down at the piano and tried some quick scales, arpeggios and glissandos.  But his hands didn’t seem to want to obey him. What had always come as naturally to him as breathing was now a strain. He knew he had to make an apointment to see the doctor quickly.

The receptionist glared at him as he entered the surgery. As usual, he was late for his appointment. But taking in the jet black hair that fell over thick eyebrows and twinkling intelligent almond eyes she didn’t dare ask why. After all, he WAS Mr Gang.

“How can I help?” asked the doctor.

“My hands.” replied the pianist, showing them to him.

The physician frowned.

“Hmmm, I’m afraid to tell you, sir, that you probably have arthritis.”

“I beg your pardon?” Tien’s eyebrows disappeared into his hair, and his brow furrowed. “Arthritis?”

“I’m very sorry sir, but I think that is the case.”

“But I’m a pianist! My hands are my career! Is there no cure?”

“I’m afraid not. But we can give you a cast to wear at night to slow the process down.”

“But it must stop it!”

“Nothing can stop arthritis,” the Doctor said, gravely.

Tien’s mind went as blank as a music sheet waiting to be written on.  Compose yourself, he thought firmly.

“Very well,” he said, trying not to let his voice crack, or go out of tune, as he liked to think of it.  “I’ll take the cast.”

The doctor nodded, and reached for some polystyrene from a drawer.  “Press your hand into this, please, sir. We’ll get the cast to you as soon as possible. Wear it all night every night.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

When the cast arrived,  it was an ugly plastic thing with Velcro to attach it to the hand.  Tien tried every night for two months.  Those two months were pure hell for the pianist.  He couldn’t sleep a wink and that meant he couldn’t concentrate on his piano practice which meant the world to him.  Finally, not being able to bear it a second longer, he decided to think of a solution. He thought day and night for a further week, and finally, it came to him: He would play the piano with his feet.

After all, didn’t some artists paint with their feet? And he remembered very well the Chinese proverb from The Wisdom of Confucius, which he had read and reread almost as often as the famous piano concerto by Grieg, “Heavenly music is interpreted differently by everyone”. Didn’t that mean he could play his music however he wanted, because everyone had different ways of doing so? He tried playing the first movement of The Moonlight Sonata with his feet, putting a chair beneath his legs to keep them up.  He did this every day for as many hours as he could. For the first couple of months, the music was hesitant and slow. But then, one day, the blank sheet of music which had been Tien’s mind ever since he had been told he had arthritis filled with notes, and the instrument seemed to be speaking to him as never before.

Within six more months, Tien Gang was once more on the stage in one of the biggest concert halls in the world. The hall was packed with people, excited to hear him play once more. They didn’t know he was now playing with his feet. That had been kept secret. What would be their reaction, Tien wondered? There was only one way to find out: The pianist cleared his throat and silence fell instantly. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “welcome. Today’s concert will ;com” he smiled to himself, “let us say- different to usual. I will now begin with The Moonlight Sonata by Beithoven. I hope you enjoy it.” He sat down at the piano, put his legs up on the chair, placed his bare feet on the piano and began to play what he had been working on since he had decided to play with his feet. The audience looked at the pianist in astonishment. What was going on? But the music was too beautiful to think about this. When the piece was over, tumultuous aplause filled the hall and Tien Gang received the most apreciative standing ovation he had ever experienced. The pianist stood up and bowed. When the noise had died down, he explained everything to the audience. From then on, Tien Gang continued with his career, and went on to become the best-loved pianist of the day.

 

Note: In China, the surname is always said first. I chose the name Tien Gang because in Mandarin, the word Gang Tien means piano.

Poem – Synaesthesia

Synaesthesia

My senses are like five petals on a curious flower,

Or five voices on a silken string:

They merge and work in harmony,

Paint a reflection of the world.

Yet if I look in closer,

Inwards, inside myself,

I see that each is clearer than clarity,

That none are shrouded by the rest.

I look at the sun

As he sinks down

In an arc below sky

And touches the sea then, he falls further down

To lie asleep in her heart.

As I do,

Blue and orange, scarlet, gold

Settle in the evening sky

Like birds, they come to rest.

And as I watch the colours,

Each has a note, a tone, a voice

Which form a chord no human could notate.

I see the colours,

Hear the chord

And a scent wafts down to me

More secret than a shadow,

A time before the past,

A vision of beyond the future.

As I see the colours,

Hear the chord

Smell the scent,

A leaf of velvet,

A tightly woven web of gossamer

Comes to rest around me.

As I see the colours,

Hear the chord,

Smell the scent

And feel the leaf-like web of velvet gossamer,

A taste of fire,

Of beauty,

Of eternity,

Of softest coarseness

And of dreams

Spreads softly through my inner self.

Now, the moon rises from the sea

And takes her place upon the sky.

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